Monday, September 6, 2010

Andy Carroll: Next Toon messiah, Next England messiah?

Let's get the facts straight first up. Andy Carroll has made nine premier league starts for Newcastle. In those starts he's scored precisely four goals as a starter, all of them in his last two matches. The clamour for him to represent England in the Qualifiers for the European Championships during the Three Lions' two matches against Bulgaria & Switzerland has grown to fever pitch and as the Magpies fought to a draw with Wolves last weekend he was personally scouted by Franco Baldini, the England Assistant Manager.

There's no question that the kid has talent. He's been the pride and hope for the Toon army since he was barely 18, all while sporting a frame that makes Kevin Davies blush. He's a big lad. But to further flesh out the picture, he's aerobically very capable, runs to the right places on the pitch, and is a burly sort who doesn't mind contact and thus very good at creating enough time in the box for himself or others to shoot. The accuracy of those shots, however, is another matter but he's still only 21 and polish often comes later in a career.

So why or why not would Andy Carroll be a good target man for England? It's safe to say that the alternatives now Emile Heskey has retired – err. … Carlton Cole, Bobby Zamora, Davies and even Peter Crouch – don't fill opposition defences with dread. And, Crouch aside (but he's hurt at present anyway), none are in good form. You can be assured that Carroll's never played better and that he's been a handful for such experienced hands as Richard Dunne & Jody Craddock over the past two weeks. Combine this with his play against Man U's Vidic & Evans where he really should have scored and it paints a tantalising picture.

Should Fabio Capello and the England hierarchy feel that he could be the man to partner Wayne Rooney at the Euros in 2012, then it is now that he should be brought into the squad. Let him train with the England A-listers. Run him out in friendlies and “safe” second-legs until he gets a solid international footing. But this must be a consistent effort by management – given the noise surrounding his past fortnight, one of the only reasons he hasn't been picked already is the question remains if he's ready for prime-time. If he's not ready, he can be hastened into that readiness by allowing him to play roles here and there consistently within the national set-up. Tell him your plans for him. Communicate that and let him know that he has a place in forward plans should his form merit it.

To be honest, should he not play for England, I wouldn't really care. In fact, in these blog pages just a few days ago I wrote that it was perhaps premature to speak of him being the perfect foil for Rooney. He isn't the perfect foil for Rooney right now – he still needs polish for sure and he's quite simply not quite ripe – but if he has any chance of developing into that foil then that needs to be nurtured and encouraged over time rather than simply picking him if there's no one else available or because he fits in now but not later. If management doesn't expect a player to be playing at those Euros in two years time, it's nonsensical to expect that player to participate in these qualifiers. In two years, Andrew Carroll may be the best target-man in England. He also may very well not be – there is a lot of water to cross under a lot of bridges before he even approaches the status of a Didier Drogba. But if he has even the slightest chance to developing into that power forward, then pick him! What has England got to lose in the first games of a new qualifying campaign?

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